In a few short years the Whistler Adaptive Sport Program has grown from a grass-roots organization that provided a few adaptive ski lessons each week to a four-season program with a half dozen sports, more than 140 active volunteers, full time ski and snowboard instructors, hundreds of clients, and a competitive program to feed athletes into provincial programs.
Growth has been in the double digits most years, but for a few years it was in the triple digits.
As a result of the growing demand for programming, the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) has quickly outgrown its storage shed at Olympic Station on Whistler Mountain. Gear is piled high from one end to the other, leaving little room for instructors and people enrolled in WASP programs. That could change soon, thanks to a generous donation.
This week the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF) announced a $150,000 grant to WASP to build a new two-storey "Welcome and Equipment Centre" at Olympic Station; 2,000 square feet of space for gear and programming." The building will be used by the Whistler Adaptive Ski and Ride Program and WASP's hiking and Para-Alpine ski racing programs.
The grant was made possible through a legacy fund created for Jeff Harbers, a former Microsoft executive and part-time Whistler resident who died in a plane crash in 2006. Harbers was a supporter of local causes through theWBF, as well as the American Friends of Whistler.
The donation represents over 30 per cent of the $497,500 budget for the building. First Canadian Development Corporation, which is supplying a prefab building, is making an in-kind donation valued at $150,000. Scotia Bank provided the initial seed funding of $25,000 for the project, and the American Friends of Whistler has also made a significant donation. WASP is now looking to raise the remaining $113,500 to start the project.
"We're definitely challenged for space in (the current) building, given how successful we've been in terms of growing programs, and having different capital contributions of equipment over the years," said WASP director Chelsey Walker. "Now is the time to grow the centre to match how the program has grown."
Despite the economic downturn, WASP numbers are tracking similar to last season when they delivered a record 1,024 lessons through their adaptive ski and snowboard program. This year they have delivered or booked 998 lessons and are on pace to break 1,000 lessons once again.
They have also seen their cross-country program grow to 30 lesson per days, while their competitive program has grown numbers and training opportunities with 24 training days over the winter season. WASP is helping to host the B.C. Para-Alpine Championships in Whistler on April 25.
Recently, WASP also signed an agreement with Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies to have office space in the athletes' centre at Cheakamus Crossing. As well, the athlete dorm and long-term athlete housing has room for up to 100 athletes with disabilities.
"Between accommodation and office space at the athletes' centre and this project at Olympic Station, we're able to continue to grow our programs and for WASP to be known as an innovator that delivers the highest quality programs possible," said Walker.
The existing building at Olympic Station, donated by the Rotary Club of Whistler in 2000, will be moved from its current location to make room for the new building once all the funding is in place. WASP is currently in discussions over where that building will be located.